Anav Silverman Headshot

Abbas's UN Mission Alienates His Own People

Posted: Updated:
Print

Earlier on Monday, Mahmoud Abbas described the reaction to his bid for statehood as "all hell has broken out against us." Speaking to reporters on his flight to New York, Abbas defiantly explained that he had only one choice, and that was to take his state bid to the UN Security Council. No longer willing to work in a balanced and legitimate framework that has guided peace negotiations until now, Abbas has taken upon himself to act alone, according to a new set of rules that he has conceived to realize his vision of a Palestinian state.

The varied reactions to Abbas's controversial move, which included some support from left-wing media in Israel, has also elicited responses from foreign diplomats and political analysts who question the wisdom behind it.

Alain Juppe, the French foreign minister, stated on Sunday that he would ask Abbas what is the meaning of his current strategy. "I will ask him what is his strategy? Going to the Council of Security and what after that? We have to avoid such a confrontation. We have to find a balanced solution," Juppe told the Council on Foreign Relations think-tank in New York.

Tony Blair, a special envoy to the diplomatic Quartet, a group of senior mediators from the US, Russia, the European Union and the UN, told Al Jazeera that Abbas's mission and potential resolution may "end up in a situation where we end up again frustrated."

And back in May, when Barack Obama gave his Mideast policy speech where he called on Israel to return to 1967 lines, he also highlighted that "symbolic actions to isolate Israel in the United Nations in September won't create an independent state."

Talking in the same vein but laced with more complicated wording, White House spokesman, Jay Carney said on Monday that "We remain where we were on the inadvisability of unilateral actions that will bring the Palestinians no closer to the statehood they seek."

"We generally as a rule support the actions that move the parties closer together and do nothing to support the things that move them further apart," Carney explained.

Indeed, even Hamas, the PA's government counterpart in Gaza, remains apathetic to Abbas's mission. Hamas has not endorsed the bid because they see it as a Fatah-led initiative. "Because nobody consulted us, we, Hamas do not take this issue seriously," Ahmed Yousef, deputy foreign minister in Gaza told Al Jazeera on Sunday.

But others still, including academic scholars and Palestinian activists, believe that the risks to the unity and autonomy of the Palestinian people in Abbas's bid for a state, will outweigh any gain. Professor Guy Goodwin-Gil, a professor of international law at Oxford University, released a legal opinion recently highlighting that "the move to enhance the Palestinian presence in the United Nations through 'statehood' nevertheless carries risk of fragmentation where the State represents the people within the UN and the [Palestinian Liberation Organisation] represents the people outside the UN."

The PA is not recognized by many as the legitimate representative of the Palestinians, as it is a temporary administrative body that was created from the failed 1993 Oslo Accords. The PLO, as an institution, is the sole official representative of the Palestinians at the UN. Thus, Mahmoud Abbas who leads the PA does not represent the entire Palestinian people in its official capacity. Karma Nabulsi, a former PLO representative and Oxford University scholar, declared that Abbas's initiative "as it is currently constructed, does not actually advance or protect this collective right of self-determination of the Palestinian people."

Other activists are also worried that Abbas's September initiative will not preserve the PLO. Hind Awwad, a West Bank activist for democratic popular representation told Al Jazeera that "In its current form, the initiative will replace the PLO as our representation at the UN with the Palestinian state, thereby disenfranchising the majority of our people."

"The people must be the ones to decide the fate of the PLO; it cannot be a decision the current leadership takes without any mandate from the people themselves," Awwad elaborates.

Consequences of the bid could be severe warns Nabulsi. "The Palestinian people as a whole stand to lose the most from this [bid], as it shatters their long-held and internationally-recognized unity in their struggle for their inalienable rights. The recognition of a state creates two separate representatives of the Palestinian people under the current conditions," said Nabulsi.

Going back to the French foreign minister's question, what then is motivating Abbas? With no proper democratic representation in place, a lack of formal institutions and free speech (in 2008, the PA blocked access to a popular news website because of the site's reporting on widespread corruption among Abbas's staff), the current groundwork for a Palestinian state is lacking critical democratic mechanisms.

As Abbas explained in his New York Times op-ed in May, "Palestine's admission to the United Nations would pave the way for the internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter, not only a political one. It would also pave the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice."

Abbas's motivation lies in his deep abhorence of the Jewish state. Hatred can blind anyone. It can even make the most rational leader oblivious to the wreckage he may leave behind, as he trudges along a trail that leads as far away from peace as possible.

Abbas has left a trail that could potentially lead to a third intifada, at least if Iran has its way. A week after Abbas's visit to the UN, Iran will hold its Fifth International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Intifada to coincide with the PA leader's UN mission. The conference will be held in Teharan on October 1-2 and will be chaired by Iranian parliament speaker, Ali Larijani and attended by various political dignitaries and activists. The intifadah conference aims to unite activists to support the Palestinians through any means, including violence.